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For all the unquestionable beauty of our ubiquitous natural surroundings, even the Front Range and Garden of the Gods can become hard to truly see. Like “THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA” in Don Delillo’s novel White Noise, the local scenery can become little more than advertisements for long-held ideas about the local scenery:
“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”
He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.
We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”
There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.
“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.”
Another silence ensued.
“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said.
He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.
“What was the barn like before it was photographed?” he said.
We found ourselves wondering the same thing about our landscape as we wandered through Garden of the Gods on a warm, late afternoon last week as the sun was just about to drop behind Pikes Peak and we caught some lens flare while trying not to focus. Perhaps the incredible bulk of America’s Mountain wants to be a telepathic cyclops for Halloween, or a light science fiction afternoon.